Walking into the large room at Sally Tomatoes Event Center, a sea of around 400 people and racks with jackets and coats for every sized person covered the area. This event brought people together that had never met each other and yet you could hear, here is a size 8-oh, I can use that, but I am also looking for an extra-large for my neighbor. It brought tears just watching each and every person. Some recipients had a look of desperation as little children were not finding something that fit them properly and others had excitement written all over their faces.
There is one person who was so involved with the Lake County fires two years ago, that after the fire storm in Santa Rosa, she knew she had to do something to help.
She could not sit by and not help in another way as she did before, however, an idea popped into her head. She called friends and wrangled them into saying yes as they also had been involved with the Valley Fire and she knew volunteers would be coming her way when taking over this huge endeavor.
Letitia Hanke realized that she had taken on too much, yet this fire also affected the same amount of people and she had learned much during the valley fire. Hanke said after months of volunteering and donating and remembering that families will suffer years down the road, she said this being so close to the holidays, why couldn’t she and her group do something that seems almost a normal frantic month of celebrating holidays?
After gathering her group, she decided people needed coats, but they would also need Christmas ornaments and just be able to go to a place where they could relax. And stations were set up with different themes in order to help relax, be it only for a short time. There was a photo booth, a large table assembled to hold the makings of holiday ornaments, a beautifying station with young ladies curling the customer’s hair and a large table loaded down with delicious food made many people smile.
Letitia said, “I just want people to relax and feel good for at least one night.”
This event was based on receiving a warm coat since most residents lost everything they owned. The word was put out that anyone could donate new or slightly used coats and let it benefit those that needed them. Around 6 p.m. 400 coats were hanging on racks, but people already were waiting in line at 5 p.m. It was a very chilly night and the good food and the thought of receiving a nice warm jacket made many people smile.
Gerard Guidice of Sally Tomatoes donated the room and New York Life Insurance was also a sponsor for Letitia Hanke with the LIME Foundation which was started in February of 2015. It was decided that coats were the best bet as they could be handed out to local churches.
Letitia and her group said she ran around for weeks picking up donated coats and finding places to store them until the evening of the event. Hanke is also the proud person that has started a non-profit organization called NextGen Trades Academy and it's being taught over at Youth Connections. Training is being given to seniors at Chanate that are interested in the construction trade. The seniors are also being schooled in nutrition at the Chanate Brookdale in Santa Rosa on promoting healthy foods, eating well and doing healthy movements. Along with the promotion on taking good care of your body, they have incorporated a music program. This program came about because of the much bullying that is going on with that age group. Letitia, herself was bullied very badly in school due to the color of her skin and she didn’t want that to happen to other teenagers. A music studio partnered pro-bono and young people are making their own CD’s and having a blast. Along with all of this talent, a dance studio was also started. We partnered with New World Ballet Center. We partnered with them. Many of the younger adults were having problems in school and their grade average was down in the low two’s but after starting dance ballet, most students have graduated with a 4. Grade average and had their self-esteem go through the roof. One student indicated that between the bullying and the loathing of going to school, the ballet dance classes have made him a new person.
Letitia is the proud owner of ARS Roofing and Solar and along with her group of employees, volunteers and friends, she has done and is doing a fabulous job for the community.